Wolfe, in turn, says he likes Lee's work, but then criticizes the endings of Lee's two most recent films, "Do the Right Thing" and "School Daze," a satiric look at black college life. In both cases, the author suggests, Lee has tacked on controversial but unnecessary messages at the end.
The filmmaker is not impressed, especially when Wolfe suggests that the climax of "Do the Right Thing" is ambiguous. In the last scene, Mookie, a character played by Lee, hurls a trash can through the window of a pizzeria where he works, setting off a riot. Moments before, police officers have killed a black man who entered the pizzeria and refused to turn down the volume on his boom box.
Wolfe suggests that Mookie is angered by the amorous looks exchanged between his sister, Jade, and Sal, the white owner of the pizza shop. But Lee curtly disagrees with that interpretation, saying the final scene was prompted by black anger over white racism and brutality.
Both men agree, however, that it is important for American artists to address racism head-on. Wolfe suggests that some readers were disturbed by his book simply because he told the truth about black-white relations.
"There is an etiquette about race relations, and that etiquette says it's OK to bring the subject up, it's OK to present racial friction as long as at the end some enlightening character rises up and shows everyone the error of his or her ways. And life isn't like that."
Lee concurs, noting that if he had wanted to portray a rosy picture of race relations, he would have had Sal and Mookie singing "We Are the World" at the end of his film.
"The view would have been exactly like 'Driving Miss Daisy,' (which won the Academy Award for best picture this year)" he says.